The Type of Cough Medicine You Take Could Make a Big Difference in Finding Relief
Don't just grab any bottle off the shelf! There comes a time each year — it could mid-winter in the brittle cold, when colds and flu are making their rounds, or in the middle of spring, when pollen fills the air — when you just can't stop coughing. It's annoying for you and everyone around you, as that tickle comes up when you're in a meeting, stuffed like a sardine on the train or trying to get some much-needed sleep. Now, as much as we hate to cough, there is a legit reason our body has this strange reflex. "Coughing is a response to irritation, inflammation, or infection in the lungs and airway," says Chantel Strachan, M.D., a primary care physician at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "It is how our bodies literally try to push unwanted germs and irritants out of the body." Coughing is most often associated with respiratory infections — like the common cold or flu, bronchitis and more serious infections, including COVID-19. But it can also be due to acid reflux, allergies and asthma, as well as unexpected side effects of some medication, according to Dr. Strachan. The type of cough you have is a clue to what's causing it: A wet cough (the type that brings up phlegm or mucus) is often a sign of a lower respiratory infection. A dry cough, on the other hand, is commonly associated with irritated or inflamed upper airways, says Glen B. Chun, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and clinical director of Mount Sinai's National Jewish Respiratory Institute. Treatment for wet coughs is often targeted towards suppressing the cough entirely, whereas for dry coughs it may be more focused on soothing the associated sore throat, he explains. Sometimes it can seem that your cough is going to last forever, but thankfully, there are many strategies you can try for improving your symptoms, including a good old cough drop. Here are the best ways to get rid of your cough, fast.